November 12th, 2008
Here’s my review of the metal clad Nokia E71. Nokia’s update to their e61i.
Build quality is excellent. Much of the body is made of metal along with the battery cover. The battery cover clips on (instead of sliding on) and it fits very tightly. The finish is chrome and is an absolute fingerprint magnet. It didn’t bother me (except when I was taking pictures of the e71) but some may not like that. All in all, the e71 feels a lot more expensive than its competitors.
Along with the nice metal body Nokia includes a very nice leather pouch. The pouch is thin so it maintains the e71′s sleek profile.
It is however a lot narrower than say a Blackberry Bold or Motorola Q9h – width wise it’s more similar to a Treo. Personally I like typing on wider keyboards but at the same time I prefer carrying around a more narrow one. I also like how it’s easier for me to use a narrower keyboard with one hand. Plus a narrower keyboard makes the e71 easier to hold when I’m using it as a phone. I guess the narrow width has it’s pros and cons, and for me, they’re a wash.
As far as the layout, I don’t have any complaints about the e71′s keyboard. I like the space bar size. The number keys are directly above the space bar which makes dialing numbers slightly easier.
Besides being more narrow, the e71 is also pretty thin, though, really I wouldn’t consider the Bold or the Q9h to be thick.
There are 3 buttons on the right side plus a 2.5mm headset jack – I wish Nokia had put a 3.5mm headphone jack in instead.
There is an infrared port on the left (do people who can afford an e71 still use those?) along with a micro USB connector and micro SDHC slot. The usb and SD card slots have covers which feel like buttons. Shamefully you can’t use the micro USB slot for charging.
There’s a Nokia charging connector at the bottom.
On top is the mono speaker and a power button.
There is a 3.2megapixel autofocus camera on the back with a built-in LED flash and self portrait mirror.
There is one shortcut key to the left of and two to the right of the nav pad. Each button can have 2 functions; you can press it for one function or press and hold it for the other – useful.
The button with the house has the same function as the menu button on other s60 devices. You can press it to bring you back to the home screen or press and hold it to bring up the task switcher.
The screen is nice and bright. It has a resolution of 320×240 which trails the Blackberry Bold’s 480×360.
The standby screen has a work mode, which by default displays a list of program shortcuts. It also shows a link to your email (including the number of new messages), calendar (including the number of calendar items due today) and the to do list (including the number of outstanding items).
There is also a personal mode which removes the email, calendar and to do list information and has a different set of program shortcuts. This is nice if you’re trying to separate work and home.
The email program supports POP3, IMAP4 and MS exchange. While I didn’t test it, Exchange support pushes emails to your device.
The e71 will search your phonebook if you start typing/dialing from the standby screen. Microsoft Smartphone (now called Windows Mobile Personal) and Blackberries have had this feature for a while.
The phonebook can sync with your computer using Nokia PC Suite. You can also sync it with Ovi (along with your calendar, todo list and a bunch of other stuff) – useful if you’re switching to a different Nokia phone and don’t want to use a computer.
The E series phones are targeted towards business users. Nokia includes VPN software (I didn’t test it because my OpenVPN setup isn’t compatible).
Also loaded is PTT (push to talk), SIP (voip), Instant messaging software.
The SIP works fine. If you’re about to make a call you can press the talk button to phone using the mobile network or you can press in on the navpad to choose to make a SIP call instead.
If you’re setting the SIP client up and can’t get it to work try using this ########@yourprovider.com where the #’s is your username and yourprovider is the address of your SIP provider.
With the built-in Search app, you can search many of the built-in programs as well as the internet for stuff. Music, content, calendar, messages, email, bookmarks, images, videos, applications, notes, landmarks and active notes.
You get a version of QuickOffice that allows you to create documents on the device. Often times you only get a version that lets you view documents.
There is a useful converter program which can convert weight, volume, distance, etc.
Active Notes is a note taking application where you can insert pictures, video, sound, internet bookmarks, business cards and files into notes. You can insert pics from your phone or take a new one with the camera.
You can even link a note to a phonebook entry so that whenever you call that number, the note will pop up (so you can take notes about the call). Very very smart!
I don’t think Active Notes sync with your computer.
There’s also a regular note application which does sync with your computer (and lacks Active Notes’ cool features).
There is a dictionary program which lets you look words up in other languages and can translate them. You can go online (on the e71) and download dictionaries. Besides showing you the definition of a word it can also read it out to you – sorry people, I didn’t bother trying to see if it would translate swear words.
A word of note though; if you download a dictionary who’s language is NOT supported by the e71 then you’re out of luck. For example, my e71 supports English, French and Spanish – so when I downloaded a Japanese dictionary it just shows squares instead of the characters.
You can read PDF files with the included Acrobat reader. I didn’t find it to be as good as the PDF reader on the Bold. The Bold has a text only mode which makes reading a lot of PDF’s much easier.
There is an option to encrypt the main memory as well as the memory card. To be honest I’m not 100% sure what it does exactly (Besides encrypt things). I encrypted my memory card and put a password on it. When I turned my e71 off/on it didn’t prompt me for a password. When I stuck the card in my computer however the computer couldn’t read it.
The e71 has a voice aid feature which can read certain things to you. It has a sort of sub menu of features which are voice enabled (not all of the e71′s functionality is). It can do stuff like read your messages, read out numbers as you dial them, read out your phonebook. To be honest when I first tried it (when the e71 was fresh out of the box) it worked, later, after everything was setup I tried to get it to read my messages and I got a ran out of memory message.
The music player is similar to the one you’ll find on say the n95. Like most music players you can sort your music by artist, album, genre, etc. You can also view most frequently listened to songs. There is a shortcut to the music player on the standby screen if it’s in personal mode.
Like I mentioned before, there’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack, just a 2.5mm headset jack so you’ll need to find an adapter if you want to use ‘regular’ headphones.
The built-in speaker has adequate volume but it doesn’t sound particularly good.
The camera has a resolution of 3.2 megapixels with a LED flash and self portrait mirror. I’m a little surprised that the e71 doesn’t have a dedicated camera button on the side (most phones have this). To take a picture you press in on the navpad. This is slightly confusing because this button is also used to change camera settings. So, if you change a camera setting and want to take a pic it’s not as intuitive.
Picture quality isn’t that great – I was expecting more after using a Nokia n95 and n95 8GB a lot recently. Despite it’s autofocus I didn’t find pictures to be particularly sharp, they’re also noisier than I expected and the colour was usually off slightly. Still, compared to other camera phones, the e71 is about average.
You can look at your pictures using the gallery app. It’s not the same snazzy gallery app you get on other s60 devices. The one on the e71 is functional but you can only see 3 pictures at a time instead of many more.
Nokia Maps is included. It’s a mapping program that lets you look up POI and addresses for free plus there is free access to maps. You have to pay extra if you want navigation (walking and driving navigation).
Most free mapping programs let you download maps as you need them. What makes Nokia Maps special besides downloading the maps as you need them, you can also hook the e71 up to your computer and download maps so you can save money on data charges. In case you’re wondering, maps for the entire world take up about 3.2GB of space while Canada is 161MB and the US is 896MB. If you’re tight on space, you can choose to only download individual provinces or states; New York is 46MB – very useful.
Browsing is handled by the S60 browser. The S60 browser is one of the better browsers out there. It doesn’t use a proxy so when you view a page, the e71 downloads the entire page.
I did find that the e71 would sometimes close the browser if I switched to a different program to save memory. That really irritated me when it happened. It also seemed to crash a little more than it did on my Nokia n95 8GB.
You also get; podcasting app, radio, voice recognition and a voice recorder.
Incoming sound quality is quite good; aside from a slight background hiss (it’s barely noticeable) the e71 is clear and neutral. The e71′s taper sides make it easy to hold in your hand.
Outgoing sound quality is also very good, the microphone is pretty sensitive so you don’t have to talk very loud on it.
Maximum earpiece volume is adequate. The speakerphone isn’t very good. While loud enough it sounds kind of muffled.
RF performance is generally good but I found that it would fluctuate a lot at times – sometimes it would drop down to EDGE from HSDPA for seemingly no reason. Hopefully this will be fixed by a firmware update somewhere down the road.
Overall I really enjoyed the e71; It fits nicely in your hand and is fast and easy to use. It’s a nice phone to hold.
It feels very well made and is solid. I love the metal body. There is a huge list of features; besides the usual (dual band HSDPA, WiFi, BT, memory card) it also has some less common ones like Active Notes, translator, encryption, talking phone, ability to create office documents, SIP, VPN, among others.
Still it has some shortcomings; the camera is pretty awful, the RF can be wonky at times, no 3.5mm headphone jack (just a 2.5mm) and sometimes the browser closes when it’s in the background.